Review by MTLH
"Classic point and click adventuring, nothing more and nothing less."
Deponia is the first entry in a proposed trilogy by German studio Daedalic Entertainment. You may know them for The Whispered World and the Edna & Harvey games. Based on the trailer and reviews, Deponia reminded me a lot of LucasArts' work. This comparison cropped up several times during play but, as will be shown in the review, Deponia manages to hold it's own.
At first glance Deponia looks wonderful. The visuals are bold and beautifully drawn. Main protagonist Rufus, the other characters and the world they inhabit are all detailed very well. This gives the sense of a grimy lived-in world, which is quite appropriate seeing that Deponia is covered in garbage. As such, the visuals just ooze personality.
At a second glance, there are a few problems which do spoil the visuals somewhat. This bold cartoony visual style just screams for a lot of movement, with a lot of moving details in the backdrops and lush animation on the characters. Unfortunately, Deponia looks rather static. That is not to say that animation is completely absent. Main protagonist Rufus is very expressive, making good use of what is given to him. That also applies in degrees to the other characters he encounters. Furthermore it is also true that water surges along, that there are a few waving flags here and there and working machinery. The problem is that it's all just too sparse, making the game look stilted at times. Conversations in particular suffer because of this, showing characters that just stand there as rigid as a mannequin.
This also applies to the cutscenes. They utilise a style that is somewhat different than that from in the game itself. It looks flatter, for lack of a better phrase. That isn't a bad thing as it works very well. It's a shame that the animation let's the cutscenes down, rendering them merely fine instead of great.
The soundtrack ranges from epic to atmospheric and complements the mood of the game very well. The sound effects are decent, doing their job without much fuss. The voice acting is generally quite good but there are a few times where the delivery can be a bit off. This occurs mainly when a joke appears to be misinterpreted by the actors.
The game's name refers to a planet which appears to be completely covered with junk. Hovering above this wasteland is Elysium, a collection of floating cities. Native Deponian Rufus has one overriding wish, to leave his trash heap of a world and travel to Elysium to obtain the riches and splendour he thinks he is entitled to. When one of his schemes causes an Elysian woman to fall down to Deponia, Rufus sees an opportunity to fulfil his dreams.
Deponia is a comedy that is indeed frequently genuinely funny. Besides a few slapstick moments, a lot of the humour stems from how the warped self-image Rufus has of himself contrasts against the reality of his situation. Rufus constantly talks about how great he is, sometimes even in song, in the face of the criticisms of those around him. He may think his latest plan to get of the planet was a work of genius that only failed due to elements completely outside of his control, his fellow Deponians on the other hand are only concerned that said plan resulted in the destruction of half the town. It's this obliviousness on Rufus' part that makes him an enjoyable character to control. Most of the time, at least.
The main problem here is that Daedalus overdid Rufus' attitude somewhat. Rufus displays certain characteristics typical to most point and click adventure protagonists. He steals everything that is not nailed down, causes mayhem at regular intervals and doesn't really care about the potential consequences of his actions. Characters like Guybrush Threepwood or George Stobbart can rely on their charm and personality to compensate for such misbehaviour. Rufus on the other hand is an arrogant, overbearing and delusional braggart. Although he, to an extent, redeems himself towards the end, his conduct can make Rufus insufferable at times. The issue here is that I don't believe this was intentional, that Daedalus probably thought they where making him likeable and his conduct humorous. As such, their approach backfires to a degree.
As a point and click adventure, Deponia is staunchly traditional. Rufus must explore his surroundings, pick up everything he can and speak with everyone he encounters. The information and objects he acquires can then be used to solve the various puzzles. The only real deviation comes in the shape of the occasional mini-puzzle, such as piecing together some broken glass for example, which feels a bit out of place. Most of them can be skipped however.
The puzzles mainly revolve around combining items with each other. The logic behind them is consistent and not too outlandish, especially if you immerse yourself in Deponia's universe. Signposting is also generally well implemented, although there are a few instances where a clue or remark may be a bit too vague. For instance, early on in the game Rufus is confronted by a mechanical bull who will obviously play a part in a puzzle. His ultimate goal was lost on me however because I didn't realise it was meant to be alive, only discovering that fact after experimenting a bit with the inventory. There is also a maze puzzle in the second half of the game that I solved through trail and error. If there where clues for this conundrum, I have to say they where hidden very well.
Deponia's structure is a bit lopsided. Just over half of the game is situated in Kuvaq, Rufus' hometown. The various puzzles build upon one another and there are always several threads to follow up on. After leaving Kuvaq, Rufus will visit two other locations which speeds up the game's pace considerably but which also feel less substantial or, perhaps better phrased, less complex in comparison. This isn't really a problem as the pacing suits the plot but I would have liked it if this sense of freedom had been available throughout the whole game.
Deponia wont be finished in a hurry. It's pleasantly challenging with an occasional difficulty spike upwards. Most puzzles are solvable with a little bit of thought, especially when you attune yourself to the game's groove. Deponia also isn't particularly short with plenty of areas on offer. Expect to get about twelve hours out of the game.
Deponia is a textbook point and click adventure and as such takes a lot of cues from many a title from the genre. Even so, the game reminded me mostly of The Curse of Monkey Island. That was mainly due to the presentation which stylistically really does look similar. The gameplay is quite reminiscent of not only the Monkey Island games in general but also titles like Sam and Max Hit the Road and Day of the Tentacle. Especially Deponia's first half features the same kind freeform design where several puzzle strands can be followed alongside each other.
Deponia doesn't reach the heights of the titles mentioned however. Some of the puzzles are just too vague, irrespective of context, while the signposting occasionally also doesn't work as it should. Luckily these issues are far from disastrous and don't really spoil the game. What did spoil the experience for me somewhat, was the depiction of Rufus. Daedelic went for a Threepwood type of character, in that he is more or less a naive bumbling idiot who means well but just can't help causing problems for both himself and those around him. What makes Rufus so insufferable at times is that instead he comes over as an arrogant twit. Although I found Deponia to be a very funny game in general, quite a few of Rufus' antics didn't do much for me because of this. Then again, it could be different for you.
Still, Deponia is a good point and click adventure that will certainly appeal to those that miss the good old days. Rufus is no Guybrush or Sam and the design could be a bit tighter but there is plenty to relish here. Recommended then, and let's hope the second part of the trilogy can maintain this standard.
OVERALL: an 8,0.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 12/19/12
Game Release: Deponia (EU, 06/29/12)
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